In the last half-century, the disability community has gone from a fragmented, cure-focused, disconnected aggregation of individuals isolated in their families or in institutions to an identity-aware, active, present, and organized advocacy movement.
The kind of advocacy that led to this blossoming of our community can be thought of as driven by the same model that black civil rights, feminism, and other identity-based rights movements have used:
- The passage of legislation that mandates certain rights.
- The development of procedures to define rights and due process when those rights are violated.
- The use of legislative solutions to the trade-offs and detailed reification of those rights.
Essentially, rights, in this model, are only those which can be legislated and bureaucratized. This process of rights expansion is driven by presence, protest, policy proposals.
The successes of our common effort are real, but not complete. Both the larger world and the requirements of future success with advocacy have changed and will continue to change. The ongoing resistance to our advocacy over the last half-century has gradually muted our impact. We must face up to these realities if we expect to further our project of social justice and personal empowerment.
The core of a new approach to advocacy for our community requires an understanding of the advocacy environment as a Complex Adaptive System (CAS) , and not as a machine that we change as we would a car engine.
Seeing the constraints on our community as processes in a CAS is not a new technique of advocacy, though it does offer us a new way to view how we change The System.
There is a basic pattern that we have used to pursue rights, and in my next post, I’ll go over that pattern as a prelude to a version for advocacy in a complex adaptive system.